Preview: 5th Anniversary of the Wednesday Night Jazz Jam Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's

Andy Davies


Trumpeter Andy Davies write about the Wednesday night jam sessions upstairs at Ronnie Scott's, the  fifth anniversary of which will be celebrated next Wednesday, May 22nd.

We have some great times at the Wednesday night upstairs jam session. The night has definitely become an institution. We get all sorts of characters, from regular punters who keep coming every week, to experienced jazz pros, young cats learning the ropes, celebrities looking for a swinging hang, hipsters catching the jazz bug and the jazz A-listers over from the States.

We try to make the jam as high a level as possible, but we also make sure that musicians of different levels get to play together and learn from each other and, most importantly, that they have a great time.

The music we play is all very much in the hard bop tradition and we try and cover that repertoire, from Bird to Benny Golson to Wayne Shorter and even Branford Marsalis. The only rule we have is you have to know the tune we call. If you don’t know it, I’m going to suggest you learn it and we’ll happily do it next week.

The audience has a riot too. A lot of young people come to the jam who might not be that familiar with hard bop, but they really get into the music. They must have a good time because they come back in numbers with their hipster chums firmly infected with the jazz bug. I’ve had loads of people from the audience coming up to me asking for the name of a tune we played, then the next week they come back having bought the album which the tune is on.

We have had some great players sitting in at the jam. Some highlights include the great American drummer Kendrick Scott dropping by and playing about 5 or 6 tunes with us. He really got the vibe of the jam and gave great encouragement to some younger players just beginning their jazz journey.

Jaleel Shaw was another US jazz star and who came and jammed and was also brilliantly encouraging with all the young musicians. Its fantastic for the younger guys to be able to jam with their heroes in such an informal enviroment. The same can be said of the great British players too, its awesome for young jazz cats to hang and play with great players such as Benet Mclean, Jeremy Brown, Nigel Price, Mark Lockheart, Pedro Segundo, Mark Fletcher and Jim Mullen... the list would be a big one- apologies to the many I’ve missed out.

The success of the jam really has to go down to Simon Cooke and Paul Pace at Ronnies who know exactly what works for the Wednesday night. They let everything flow in the correct manner and realize how to make the jam accessible to the audience and musicians without compromising the hard bop music that we play. Thus, we can just get on with it and try to swing as hard as possible.

Come and find us upstairs on a Wednesday. We start at 9.30pm with a house band set, and we’re normally still going strong until 3am.

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